POINT (12.201882 44.417977)


    Phase 1 kick-off

    Phase 2 kick-off

    Phase 2 development

    Final event

    Arwen Dewilde
    City of Ghent



    Plaza de la Constitucion 1

    Baena (Cordoba) - Spain


    Artur Katai
    City of Újbuda


    The partner cities from this Implementation network have a common need to improve the implementation of their existing integrated urban strategies and action plans by including new approaches linked to creative and cultural industries (CCI) – creative places, people, and businesses. The joint policy challenge for the network is to better facilitate the above 'creative ecosystem' to be able to attract (more) creative entrepreneurs and boost creative entrepreneurship in dedicated urban areas, this comprises activities that create economic value through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property. A city is able to mobilise ideas, talents and creative organisations when it knows how to foster a creative milieu by identifying, nurturing, attracting and sustaining talent. Local governments all over the world are increasingly becoming aware of the CCI’s potential to generate jobs, wealth, and cultural engagement.

    Boosting creative entrepreneurship through creative-based urban strategies
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  • Ravenna is redeveloping its City Docks thanks to URBACT and Urban Innovative Actions

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    Local Economic Development

    The requalification of the Darsena district is based on the idea of establishing a single territorial system, from the city to the sea, enhancing the role of Ravenna as a 'gateway to the sea', recovering 136 hectares of industrial area that were largely abandoned.

    From 2000 to 2015, this City Docks district was at the heart of an integrated urban strategy designed through a participatory process (The Darsena I wish) and leading to the Darsena City Operative Plan (POC Darsena). Today, Ravenna wants to move from this operational plan to an Urban Regeneration process (URP) fostered by digital innovation. This initial idea will soon see the first concrete realisations thanks to Ravenna’s involvement in 2 of the leading European Programmes on sustainable urban development: URBACT and Urban Innovative Actions (UIA). It started with the CREATIVE SPIRITS URBACT network focusing on the integrated urban strategy’s delivery and lasts now with the DARE project under Urban Innovative Actions.

    Learning from URBACT about integrated approach: boosting creative entrepreneurship through urban strategies. 

    From 2016 to 2019, Ravenna and eight other cities collaborated in the CREATIVE SPIRITS Implementation network to improve the implementation of their existing integrated urban strategies and their action plans via new approaches linked to creative and cultural industries (CCI) – creative places, people, and businesses.

    With the Creative Spirits network, the city of Ravenna particularly improved its capacity in applying an integrated approach to a regeneration process and in involving the stakeholders in order to strength the ‘community link’. Still today, the URBACT Local Group (ULG) remains as a working group to further develop the action plan in the Darsena. Beyond this, the idea of the integrated approach applied to a regeneration process was spread within Ravenna’s municipality, in order to be incorporated in the decision-makers practices, both at political and technical level.

    Better engaging the stakeholders with URBACT methods and tools

    Also, with the CREATIVE SPIRITS network, Ravenna’s stakeholders acquire new understanding and approach towards the regeneration process. Collaborations and exchange among stakeholders are more intense. Stakeholders’ perception of the municipality engagement for the Darsena action planning has also changed. Nowadays, they have a clearer picture of the complexity and of the variety of actions undertaken by the municipality.

    The understanding of each one’s role for the action planning and implementation enhanced a lot with the URBACT network. Some stakeholders that would not be involved in such action plan have been active and engaged. Ravenna and stakeholders’ efforts as well as the events organised in Darsena also contributed to a new image of the district among citizens and visitors. Such success strongly motivated the working group to pursue the effort for a creative revitalisation of the area, by notably being involved in the INTERREG Europe WaVE project in which the city of Ravenna will work with the stakeholders to develop an action plan for the Darsena district’s attractiveness.

    Designing and implementing an innovative project: from URBACT to UIA

    The integrated approach and stakeholders’ involvement applied are the two main elements that Ravenna positively experienced from the URBACT network and that were key for the preparation of the project. Indeed, the skills, methods and tools learnt and applied during the CREATIVE SPIRITS network helped Ravenna to successfully set up an Urban Innovative Actions bid.

    First, the development of specific skills for the stakeholders involved in the URBACT Local Group, e.g. in defining and writing project ideas, and in communicating with experts, helped the city answer European, but also national calls. Even more importantly, the ULG methodology brought forward remains as a permanent working group for innovative projects of the Darsena district, such as the Urban Innovative Actions DARE project.

    A necessary participative approach for Urban Innovative Actions projects

    The DARE project focuses on the urban regeneration process (URP) of the Darsena District in Ravenna. It develops a digital environment that makes data accessible, understandable and useful, enabling citizens to become active part in the process. The project is seeking to test whether the proposed set of tools and enablers may effectively boost the digital transition of the area and thus positively contributing to the Darsena URP.

    The DARE partnership was designed in order to represent an added value towards an integrated approach. Widely recognised as a cornerstone of efficient urban development policies, the participative approach is crucial in the generation and development of genuinely innovative and experimental projects. Strong local partnerships between public bodies, the private sector and civil society (including citizens and inhabitants) are a key component and requirement of UIA projects. Involving key stakeholders able to contribute to the implementation of the project with experience and expertise is a factor of success.

    A strong local partnership to implement the DARE innovative project

    The Urban Innovative Actions project allows Ravenna to reinforce the URBACT Local Group experience and to stabilise the recognition of this group by involving it in the implementation process. In DARE project, the wider stakeholders group is composed of a heterogeneous set of peoples, having different competences and covering different fields and sectors. The local partnership was built to involve local bodies, together with organisations acting at regional, national and international level, for both horizontal and vertical integration.

    DARE stakeholders have been divided in strategic groups, such as the policy recommendations group with organisations playing a crucial role in capitalisation, sustainability and transferability actions. The core group, called ‘cooperation and accountability’ involves the key implementation partners and is crucial with regards to the engagement of target groups, like the private sector and the previously established URBACT Local Support Group. Other groups are the ‘Peer reviews’ group and the Monitoring and Evaluation group.

    Transfer of results: from UIA to URBACT – closing the loop!

    As URBACT city, Ravenna will be able to make use of its network to transfer and disseminate the DARE results at EU level. Ravenna’s network will be indeed useful to present and suggest DARE as a replicable case. As the UIA-DARE experimentation can be progressively extended to the whole city, it could also become a model in the whole EU. Due to its relevance within the city context and intrinsic complexity, the Docks district is a perfect pilot case for medium-sized cities in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe with identical conditions such as high presence of abandoned areas, poor habit and spread of advanced digital culture among common citizens, strong political will and important commitment of the public administration. Thus, Ravenna could close the loop and consider continuing the Urban Innovative Actions project with URBACT to transfer the experience effectively to other cities.

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  • Women and the City: Be Bold For Change on International Women’s Day

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    8 March is International Women’s Day (IWD) and the campaign this year is #BeBoldForChange. IWD is a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements –from the political to the social – while calling for gender equality.  The day is marked around the globe with performances, talks, rallies, networking events, conferences, marches and even strikes.

    Gender equality is a fundamental value of the European Union, enshrined in the Treaty of Rome. It is one of the cross cutting themes to be taken into account by all the Urban Agenda for the EU thematic partnerships. Gender equality and empowerment of women is also one of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015.
    What needs to be done to make cities more gender-equal? What are the key challenges? The actions and solutions required will vary in different parts of the globe, but there are many threads that relate to urban governance, and that are particularly linked to the integrated and participatory approach promoted by URBACT. Here are just a few.


    Women are still under-represented at all levels of government. Globally fewer than 5% of the world’s mayors are currently women. In Europe, data from 2013 shows women made up 32% of municipal councils and regional assemblies.
    There is much evidence to suggest that women are most actively engaged as leaders and participants at a smaller scale community level, in more informal, less institutional settings. Support is needed to encourage women to take their skills, experience and knowledge into more formal and senior leadership positions, to bring their valuable perspectives to policy and practice. 
    Women’s voices are often the minority in public forums, in conferences, events at all levels, and this lack of visibility and role models is one of the factors that inhibit women to step up into senior roles. To this end the #EUPanelwatch platform monitors the diversity of speakers at events in Brussels, the heart of the European Union. "We need better, more diverse debates that empower and inspire the next generation of leaders. Only then can we achieve an inclusive, sustainable and prosperous Europe."
    Economic inequality
    EU cities are considered to be the engine of the continent’s economy, and across Europe the gender pay gap persists. Women are paid on average 16% less than men for every hour worked, make up less than a quarter of company board positions. A third of women work part-time, in many cases to accommodate care responsibilities. Women are under-represented in some key EU innovative growth sectors such as tech, and in entrepreneurship, in part due to barriers accessing financial capital.
    In urban poverty debates there is increasing recognition that access to income and assets, housing, transport and basic services is influenced by gender-based constraints and opportunities. A gender equality perspective becomes important in order to understand how men and women experience and respond to poverty in different ways. Research also shows that women are hit harder by austerity. Out of all household types, lone mothers are hardest hit by cuts to services, tax and benefits changes followed by lone fathers and single female pensioners. European Social Fund projects often address these challenges with targeted interventions. Good practices addressing women’s economic empowerment documented in the URBACT WEED network include customised skills training, mentoring, female entrepreneurship and business networks and non biased recruitment and promotion procedures.
    Public space
    Many of the old divisions in public spaces often persist, based on traditional perceptions of men in public and women in the private sphere. But women’s voices can be central to urban planning and development, both as key users of urban space in their role as home managers, as community leaders and initiators of neighbourhood networks. Women acquire deep and insightful knowledge of what is needed in and for the built environment, such as the design of public space, infrastructure, and services to meet the needs of all community members. 
    The kind of multifunctional urban spaces, based on smart and dense city planning, as explored in URBACT networks can provide gender sensitive solutions. Mixed use neighbourhoods with short travel distances and close proximity to work, childcare, and schools, plus extensive availability of stores and services, along with safe pedestrian environments, attractive public spaces and frequent and easily accessible public transportation systems can reduce inequalities.
    Well-designed urban spaces can also contribute to alter gender-based division of labour and burden of care-giving within families and communities.  For instance various studies have concluded that men tend to get more easily involved in family care-giving responsibilities when these tasks are “socialised” in a more public and collective setting. The Vital Cities network, for instance, is exploring how to promote physical activity in public space also through a gender lens by hearing about how to get more women and girls involved in sport in the community. The urban fabric therefore has great importance for social cohesion and gender equality, especially concerning women’s involvement in community life, also as the place where migrants and refugees integrate.
    How can you #BeBoldForChange?
    On IWD and going forward, as individuals, we can all take up the challenge to promote gender equality.
    Women and girls can step up, think about their power and use their voice, become active in communities, run for office.
    Men and boys can think about how to support women (#heforshe), balance domestic responsibilities, encourage, nurture, and make space. 
    We can all become more conscious of own bias, for instance by being more aware about the language we use, the assumptions we make, and how they can have an impact on gender equality.
    In relation to urban planning the good news is that cities can and often do effectively implement gender-sensitive interventions. Engaging in co-production with civil society, as practised in URBACT networks, implies formally recognising the human experience of “everyday life” as generating a type of urban expertise that is equal in importance to formal higher education, professional qualifications, and institutional experience. Gender perspectives can also be brought to improve design and implementation of other urban services, such as mobility, education, health and housing. The tools at our disposal include gender budgeting, smart procurement, gender-proofing, awareness training, and impact monitoring.
    Tips for URBACT cities:
    • Both the hardware and the software of urban space need to be shaped with a gender-sensitive perspective continuously.
    • In stakeholder engagement strategies reach out to women and other underrepresented groups or unusual suspects. Be proactive and think about where and how to have those conversations
    • Be sure to include the perspectives of women with additional disadvantages, such as those with a disability, women of colour, of different ages, faiths and economic circumstances, migrant and refugee women.
    • Strive for balanced teams and make visible to the public that all voices are valued. In URBACT events make sure female contributions are seen and heard. 
    • Actively redesign and redevelop urban areas to be more gender-sensitive, inclusive, and responsive to everyone’s needs, for instance developing social structures to accompany physical planning for urban development and regeneration projects.
    • Promote and support women’s participation and leadership in urban governance and community development.
    • Create frameworks of opportunities for the active participation of all and value knowledge about everyday experience. 
    • Include results frameworks and indicators to monitor gender equalit
    Cause for celebrations
    On IWD, women across the world come together to raise awareness while also celebrating the achievements of women who have overcome barriers. It's an active message that is likely to resonate with the millions of women, girls and men who have taken to the streets to march this year, including in most EU capital cities, in opposition to divisive politics.
    In the EU we can salute some of the trailblazing female Mayors of major cities starting to do things differently, whilst not forgetting the many millions of women who are driving fundamental change in urban development, climate action, integration of migrants, cultural life, safe neighbourhoods and more. Ada Colau Mayor of Barcelona has vowed to ‘feminise’ politics and her key priorities include human rights, justice and inclusion.  Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris is Chair of C40 Women 4 Climate and has presented radical proposals to extend pedestrianisation of the city.
    Many EU cities are already working successfully on gender equality. Vienna is an EU-capital that actively works on making the city available to women. It started gender mainstreaming the city in the 90s and is still working towards this goal. Other initiatives include Amsterdam’s most female friendly society launched in 2016, following on from Ravenna’s Città Amica Delle Donne which has created small mosaic plaques in every corner of the old town.
    So on 8 March let’s follow the lead of these pioneers, celebrate progress and above all commit to being bold for gender-equal cities.
    “Only if the New Urban Agendas effectively identifies pathways that challenge the wider structural power dynamics that perpetuate gender inequality can it successfully promote more equitable, just cities.”
    Photo: Young woman with pushchair, Vienna, credit: flickr_db26b73
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  • Specific approaches needed to implement policies for the creative sector

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    CREATIVE SPIRITS is a network of nine European cities, funded by the European Union in the frame of the URBACT III Programme. The nine CREATIVE SPIRITS partner cities have a common need to improve the implementation of their existing integrated urban strategies/action plans by including novel approaches linked to creative and cultural industries (CCI) – creative places, people and businesses. The joint policy challenge for the network is to better facilitate the “creative ecosystem” to be able to attract (more) creative entrepreneurs and boost creative entrepreneurship in dedicated urban areas.

    City Branding

    The objectives of CREATIVE SPIRITS partners are focused on exchanging practices and ideas on how they could implement their “creative” strategies more successfully. The general implementation challenges defined by the URBACT programme will serve as a perfect basis for joint learning and knowledge transfer.

    In the Baseline Study and during the discussions held in the framework of the City Visits, these general challenges are connected to more specific challenges which are typical of the creative sector. These specific challenges have also been intensively discussed during the kick-off meeting of the project. They are strongly inspired by the findings in some relevant case studies from creative projects implemented in several European cities.

    Defining, updating and fine-tuning actions

    Though, each CREATIVE SPIRITS partner city has an integrated strategy or action plans, almost all of them face the challenge to turn these rather general strategies into operational action plans. Many partners are faced with the fact that as the environment of the urban development is constantly and quickly changing, the strategies can hardly follow them since policy making is generally a rather slow process. Therefore, this challenge can be translated into two main questions. The first one is how a creative development strategy can be translated into an effective action plan using fully integrated working methods and participatory approaches, and the second one is linked to how an already existing (approved) action plan can be updated in order to meet new requirements without losing commitment. It has also been considered as crucial that in order to create an early and firm committment from all stakeholders that they should include smaller (sometimes symbolic) projects which can have an effect in creating points of energy and initiating a snowball effect in the target area. For instance, municipalities can formulate a policy to tackle interim use in vacant places and pay attention to make empty shops or flats in creative locations available below-market prices (see picture of a co-working place for creative in Athens below). Another idea which can easily be implemented is the use of street-art on blank walls to create an outdoor gallery reflecting on the place. It is also in most cases very effective to build in a support model for creatives to build up their own platform which could serve as an inspirational engine for innovative ideas.  

    Learn more about Kerameikos Metaxourgeio which is a deprived area lying close to the frequented inner-city areas of Athens (Greece) having beautiful but dilapidated old housing stock. Currently the district is under regeneration: a young real estate developer (a change-maker) who wants to redevelop the area into a cultural district created an association of people for planning and invited the public to submit their ideas for the future of the district.


    Tackling policy spill-overs through integration

    Another advantage of an integrated style of working is that their will be a sound basis for boosting so called creative spill-overs. This could be very well organised and orchestrated by the establishment of an intermediate agency like it is the case in Rotterdam. They have set up a Creative Commission  which has the mission to focus on the added value of CCIs in the Rotterdam economy rather than the sector’s internal growth in terms of revenues or turnover (Creative SpIN Final Report, URBACT, 2015). Also, the development of De Ceuvel in Amsterdam is a very good example of  integrating environmental aspects in the implementation of their action plan for giving space to creative sector developments (see the pictures of DeCeuvel below).

    De Ceuvel (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) is a city playground for innovation and creativity, an experiment in which co-creators achieved sustainability in a tangible and integrated way.

    Refreshing our evidences

    For a successful and effective implementation process of the creative strategies, the setting up of an indicators & monitoring system is a crucial aspect. Although  the strategies and action plans of the CREATIVE SPIRITS partner cities were mostly prepared within EU programming processes (meaning that they include indicator and monitoring systems) measuring performance and success of the creative sector development policies is a rather complicated exercise also due to the lack of an internationally agreed definition of outputs and results . It is a real challenge for CREATIVE SPIRITS partners to deal with this aspect and to jointly define indictors which are well connected to the specific character of the creative sector. The key question in this regard mainly refers to the measurement of soft factors. Creative districts have often been developed as a slower step-by-step process, based on local resources and local demand. In this process, experimentation is a key factor, but how to measure experiments? How to measure CCIs on district or city level as targeted statistics are mainly available on national level. A particularly useful approach to the audit of local cultural-creative assets is the technique known as cultural asset mapping which will certainly be an element to be used while discussing this challenge in the future project meetings.

    Do it with people under a “letting them go responsibly” attitude

    The involvement of local creatives is of course crucial in implementing strategies for the creative sector. All partner cities have a great interest in further developing knowledge and specific skills to develop long-standing, reciprocal partnerships with stakeholders and to mobilise local people. Furthermore, cities need further knowledge on how to identify and make the most of local “catalysts” (the most innovative people) enabling them to act as change-makers on the long-term. Finally, deeper understanding of the importance of co-creation in connection with CCIs is necessary to create entrepreneurial friendly strategies. The main stakeholders in creative-based urban strategies must be the creative people (artists, craftsman, designers, makers, architects, culturpreneurs, start-upers, officers from public organisations), but inhabitants, youth, university students, real estate owners/agencies are also important actors.
    The stakeholder engagement challenge is very particular for the creative sector. Creative people are mostly rather “independent” and they must be approached in a rather individual way. The golden rule is that “invitation is stronger than intervention”. It also means that the municipality should be familiar with the unique interest of the different groups and should “speak their language” (see picture of Macao initiative below).

    Learn more about how Municipality of Milan engaged creative people in Macao!
    Instead of project-specific stakeholder grouping, the municipality of Milan created a platform for related co-creating urban policies. The negotiation board - which is not only an attempt to negotiate formally with squatters - is a way to include grassroot organizations directly in urban policymaking. Macao was able to have the negotiation board adopt the legislative tool of “istruttoria pubblica”: through this tool, citizens can directly contribute to policies: they can formulate draft regulations and the city council must discuss and vote on them.

    Diversifying the funding portfolio

    CREATIVE SPIRITS partners would like to learn more about innovative funding solutions which are especially applicable for supporting cultural-creative industries.  Crowdfunding can be a rather good tool for creative start ups. The public sector could play a role here in support to set up business plans and for “last mile” financial contributions to the crowdfunding campaigns.  A good example in this regard is the Creative City Berlin platform which is used as a marketing tool for collecting crowdfunding for specific creative-cultural goals . Also the method of a Social Marketplace  can provide an environment in which creative entrepreneurs can find funding solutions. Although this method is used for NGOs, it can be used also for smaller creative entrepreneurs as well (as Creative Marketplace). Similarly, the Social for Impact Bond method can be modified in order to promote local creative-cultural activities creating a Creative-Cultural Impact Bond.

    Designing smart public procurement frameworks

    Regarding the challenge related to public procurement, the most important issue is that while procurement regulations are mostly intended to ensure accountability and minimize risk, the process leaves little room for experimentation or creative engagement with entrepreneurs. Innovations are needed in procurement to correctly value creative services.

    Setting up Public Private Partnerships for delivery

    Based on the discussion of partner cities, classic Public Private Partnership (PPP) schemes are less relevant with regards to the network’s policy challenge. However a strong cooperation between the real estate sector and the public sector is very important. It would be a task for the city to find and discuss smart solutions on how the real estate  sector could be engaged in the process of creating opportunities for creatives to settle themselves in existing (sometimes unused and empty) shops and buildings in the target areas. Public/private cooperation can provide networking facilities, like the one in Rotterdam. Rotterdam’s Creative Factory, established in 2008 in an abandoned grain silo, has created a raft of new full-time jobs in one of the most deprived areas of the city and has provided a working space for over 180 small companies over the last five years.


    The objective of the CREATIVE SPIRITS network is focused on creating an environment in which entrepreneurship in the sector can get a boost by tackling the above described challenges. These are what the partners have in common. The sub-objectives and sub-challenges however will vary, which creates a more precise basis for future knowledge transfer and learning in the implementation phase of the Creative Spirits network. This is the case with the question on which extent the support to creative entrepreneurs should be based and should contribute to the rehabilitation of deprived areas and to social cohesion in these areas. Discussing common CREATIVE SPIRITS goals to be implemented in different cultural and governmental settings and by including local people strongly contributes to a better understanding of the value of EU cooperation.





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